By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – President Dilma Rousseff has summoned Brazil’s 27 governors and 26 mayors to Brasília to deliver her vision of wide-ranging reforms for a country that has “ground to a halt” under the weight of a wave of mass protests, which has seen over a million people take to the streets demanding political reforms and improved public services.
In response to the protests, President Rousseff set out her plans of five “pacts” – on the economy, political reform, health, education and transport.
For the economy, Rousseff said she wanted a “long-term pact” on greater fiscal responsibility, transparency, a more stable economy and controlled inflation.
The president announced a “bruising attack” on corruption and promised to debate a referendum on political reform, in a move clearly slated to show she is listening to Brazil’s electorate. According to Brazilian media, this could include a change in the way government and parliamentarians are elected.
The other reforms all have to do with improving the quality and availability of public services. The president asked the government to boost further current investments in the health service, and promised to bring in foreign doctors to plug the country’s shortage in medical professionals.
However, the president was at pains to explain that this was a temporary “emergency” step, while sufficient numbers of Brazilian doctors were trained for the jobs, quoting figures that showed Brazil currently hires far fewer foreign doctors than other countries.
For education, Rousseff reiterated her support for a bill to route “100 percent” of the country’s proceeds from oil royalties into the public education system, saying that no other country had made such strides in education reforms.
For improvements to Brazil’s transport system, perceived failures in which sparked the country’s recent nationwide mass protests, the president was already poised to promise an exact sum of money: R$50 billion of extra cash for urban mobility to make amends to the “past error of not investing in metros” and a promise the public would be consulted on decisions surrounding public transport in the future.
After meeting with governors and mayors, Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante, said the president’s proposal had been “approved by all governors and mayors.” However, PPS leader deputy Rubens Bueno said the president had “failed to answer crucial questions” that would calm the streets and offered “little by way of action.”
Carlos Ayres Britto, a former Supreme Court president, called the idea of a referendum on political reform was “troubling.”
Although smaller in scale than in recent days, protests continued across Brazil last night, including in Rio, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte and the capital, Brasília, where buses were set on fire.
Read more (in Portuguese).
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